Transition key to success
Businesses have to bend with the times, says Thailand's so-called Content Queen
Although the rights of transgender people have been in the spotlight recently, it remains challenging for transgender women to achieve their goals in life and work. But Jakkaphong "Anne" Jakrajutatip, chief executive of JKN Global Media, who has over 10 million followers on her social media platforms, has broken through the barriers and proven the outstanding ability of transgender people in the field of business.
Anne is the third richest transgender person in the world.
According to Forbes, Anne is the third richest transgender person in the world with an estimated net worth of US$210 million (6.37 billion baht). She is wealthier than Lana Wachowski, the American film director of The Matrix trilogy, who has a net worth of $125 million, and Caitlyn Jenner, an American television personality and former Olympian, who has a fortune estimated at $100 million. Anne is only ranked behind Martine Rothblatt, chief executive of biotechnology firm United Therapeutics,whose net worth is estimated to be $390 million and Jennifer Pritzker, one of the heirs to the Hyatt Hotel chain fortune, whose net worth is listed at $1.9 billion.
Last year, Anne received the Asia Media Woman of the Year award at the Content Asia Summit in Singapore. She is the first Thai person and the first transgender woman to win the award. Although Anne had been told from an early age that LGBTQ people could never have a bright future, now, at the age of 41, she heads content distribution at the JKN Global Media empire and is Thailand's first transgender billionaire.
In her youth, Anne studied at an all-male school. She said she was sexually harassed by a teacher and was also mocked by fellow students due to her gender identity. At home, she was the eldest son in the family. Being fed up with Thai education, she quit to study in Australia where she worked at a gas station to support herself. After completing her overseas studies, she helped out in her family's video-rental business. Unfortunately, sales slumped as consumers turned away from videos due changing trends in the field of technology, so she decided to transform her family's business into a leading distributor for licensed movies, television programmes and other video entertainment. She began distributing documentaries and, over the years, these small yet ambitious steps soon expanded to include content from South Korea, Japan and Hollywood. JKN is also one of the pioneering companies that brought Indian television series to fame on Thai TV, which earned Anne the nickname "Queen of Indian Content." The company has also tapped into television series from the Philippines, which she believes will also be popular in the Thai market.
"In this world, there's one thing you have to do -- you can't stop moving forward. You can't complain about transformation," she said.
"It is the key. You have to be able to live with change and progress, especially in the content business. People always come and go. Analogue turns into digital. Home entertainment turns into video on-demand," she said.
"Platforms keep changing. You can't just stick with one. If you don't keep transforming, you will be in danger."
JKN Global Media owns the distribution rights of movies and television programmes in Thailand for companies including Walt Disney, CBS and Sony. Its most popular programmes are CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Walking Dead television series. The major customers for these offerings are free-to-air television networks and cable networks.
The company has also partnered with Channel 3 to export their content overseas. In news, JKN is the sole licensee of CNBC in Thailand and now produces business news programmes.
"Our revenue this year is likely to reach 2.2 billion baht with a profit of over 300 million baht. And by December, we've set a target to move JKN from the Market for Alternative Investment [MAI] to be listed in the Stock Exchange of Thailand [SET] in order to support our future growth," she said.
Anne is not stopping here. The transgender chief executive recently expanded her empire by setting up two more companies -- JKN Global Living Network and JKN Landmark. JKN Global Living Network focuses on producing and selling consumer products, especially cosmetics, health and beauty goods, while JKN Landmark is a real estate company. River King complex, a community mall project worth around 2.5 billion baht, is being developed by JKN Landmark in Salaya.
When asked about the secret of success, Anne said she believed that her transgender transition has played an important role in helping JKN to attract attention, which has led to revenue growth.
"Without the transition, my businesses are unlikely to have had such success and reputation in Thailand. It's kind of a chief executive of branding. I'm the brand of the companies and that has greatly facilitated our cooperation talks with prospective clients and suppliers," she said.
Aside from leading her multi-billion empire, Anne is also an advocate for the transgender community. She has founded Life Inspired For Transsexuals (LIFT) Foundation, which is campaigning for a law that would allow transgender people to change their title and gender after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
"I hope the law will pass soon. It's about improving our country to the world stage, and there's no reason not to do it when more than 80 countries around the world have already recognised this," she said.
Anne said she has achieved far more than what she had dreamed of in term of business, however, she still has another two big dreams, one of which has already become a reality recently after her son and daughter -- Andrew and Angelica -- were born.
"Both of my babies were born by artificial insemination. The doctor in the US used my own sperm, which were collected before sex reassignment surgery, and eggs donated by a German woman to conceive them. It means I'm a biological parent," she said.
Anne's other dream is to become the first transgender prime minister of Thailand.